Brandon Inge is Mr. Tiger! by Samara Pearlstein
Because everyone knows that Opening Day is truly the start of the New Year. Everyone except for Fernando Rodney, apparently, who is still convinced that we’re in Spring Training. Newsflash, Fernando: this one counted. Yes, I know, you seem a little shocked. But I assure you that it is true. This one counted, and you bollocksed it up. YOOOUUUU. Not Bondo, not Zoom, not even Rollercoaster Jones. No, Fernando, it was YOU.
*insert steely warning glare here*
We should have known this was gonna happen, I guess. When they were introducing the team, Fernando tripped over the dugout steps coming out and nearly FACEPLANTED onto the field. The embarrassment probably ate at him all game so that by the time the 10th inning rolled around he was a psychological mess, wholly unable to deal with the concept of getting Blue Jays to go away without touching those special infield bases.
ANYWAYS. Ignoring the outcome of the game, and ignoring Fernando, and ignoring the not-so-hot day of Carlos Guillen… there was some good stuff that came out of this game. There were some things that it was good, or at least interesting, to see.
The American League Championship banner was unveiled before the game, presented to the crowd by some woman who’d been working in the minors for 50 years or something (sorry, was not paying attention, you will shortly see why) on one side, and on the other side, the Tiger who’s been with the organization the longest now, the Tiger who’s been in the system for 10 consecutive years…
Brandon Inge with his dorktastic high-reflection sunglasses and his ri-freakin’-diculous strip of chin hair and his high socks and his general awesomeness, unfurling the flag. Because he is MR. TIGER, more so even than Paws. I’ll admit, I may have gotten a little verklempt. What can I say? It was a beautiful moment.
And if I am allowed a small digression here, I would just like to say that they did a good job on the banner. I realize that the general trend in MLB is towards the fancier these days, and that banner could have so very easily been way overwrought, design-wise… but it’s not. Plain white background, big simple base-shaped navy blue seal with the Detroit D in it, over that a simple navy banner form with a split ‘2006’ on either side of the word “Champions”, a simple orange border around all that, and “American League” above. No stars or stripes or buntings or seams or diamonds or silhouettes of Joel Zumaya playing Guitar Hero or anything. Simple. Classy. I know there are some people who were saying that they shouldn’t make a big deal out of the ALCS at all, that they should only ‘celebrate’ for a World Series victory, but since they’ve gone ahead and done this I have to say that we should all be happy they did it in so understated a fashion.
That said, I’ll bet the rings are hideous.
OK. More things that were good to see.
Unless I was VERY much mistaken, there was some scattered booing for Neifi Perez when he was introduced. Very scattered and generally overwhelmed, I will admit, but it was there. I think this is a positive sign, because we don’t want NEIFI!!! getting complacent out there. If he has to be on the roster at all, I want him gasping for air and scratching and squealing every step of the way.
Bondo had a fairly awful first inning, but this is, as I have said maybe 8,000 times, something that he tends to do. He settled down quite nicely and ended up having almost the same day that Roy Halladay had (5 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, 3 Ks over 6 innings for Bondo versus 6 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, 4 Ks over 6 innings for Halladay). The good news was that he looked damn good for most of the rest of the game, inducing flyball out after flyball out and generally being a scarily effective pitcher.
Since this First Inning Blues thing is starting to become really consistent, though, I’m starting to wonder if there isn’t something we can do to snap Bondo out of it. I mean, it can’t be that he’s stiff, right? Because if that was it, he’d just work longer in the bullpen before the game and he’d be warmed up properly. It’s got to be mental, like he needs a certain amount of time to get into the actual rhythm of the game, or something like that. I reckon we’ve got two options here.
a) Get a sports psychologist or somesuch person out here and into Bondo’s head. If he can get past the wooden “personality” of Bonderman and into the meaty tidbits of his mind, maybe he can figure this thing out.
b) Trick him. Somehow make him think it’s the first inning when really he’s still just being warmed up. I don’t know. Make Omar wear the opposing team’s uniform and stand in or something. Get it done. After Bondo gets over his rage at being so thoroughly tricked, he’ll realize that all those first inning jitters were worked out and he’s free to pitch like the big huggable pitchin’ stud we all know he is.
The very first Tigers batter to swing at the first pitch was Gary Sheffield, in the bottom of the 3rd inning. This means that Sheff was the 12th Tiger to bat (counting repeats, natch), and honestly? If Gary Sheffield sees a first pitch that he wants to swing at, who’s gonna tell him no? We should all assume that he probably has a better handle on that stuff than we do. Twelve batters before someone bit on the first pitch. The point here is that Tigers batters were TAKING like woah. The point is that this is… um, not very Tigerlike, but if we can MAKE it Tigerlike this year, I will probably be a significantly happier blogger.
The ump had a pretty generous strikezone, but it looked like he was applying it equally to Bondo and Halladay, so that’s ok.
Polanco was choking WAY up on his bat, so far up it in fact that it actually looked like he was uncomfortable during his at-bats. There was a good fist-length between the bottom of his bottom fist and the bulb of the bat. If it works it works, but it was certainly curious to see. I don’t remember him choking up that blatantly/much last season. Rod and Mario broke out the obligatory “Pujols and Bonds choke up and THEY have power” chatter… Plonkers isn’t going to be hitting with Pujolian power, but I guess it’s nice to see him taking more exact control of his bat in a purposeful fashion.
Craig didn’t have a great day at the plate, but I’m willing to give him a sort of pass because he made a couple of really nice catches in the field. Since Bondo does tend to induce the flyball, the outfielders have to be pretty alert, and there were a couple of balls that sailed into left, right where the bullpen is (and where the fence is accordingly short). Craig kept a good sense of where the wall was and managed a couple of nice catches up against or right in front of it. Proppers to the Craigger.
Got to see Zumaya today, which was cool. There were several good things about this, which were as follows:
1. I don’t think we saw a 100mph or over pitch today. That is good. For Zoom, 97mph is admirable restraint.
2. While I am not especially pleased that he went out and got his ARM tattooed over the winter (infection or allergic reaction possible even with the best of tattoo parlors arrrrgggghhh how much is your arm worth Joel arrrgggghhhh), I have to say that it does look WICKED sharp now.
3. The Jays knew what to expect with Zoom (everyone does by now), and he still blew the snot out of ’em. He threw a few changeups that had guys rocking back on their heels and whiffing ozone.
4. Although Zoom’s current chin fuzz does look scarily like either an extremely molded muffin or a mound of pubic hair, it somehow managed to NOT be the worst chin hair on the field. Reed Johnson had him beat with his “billy goat meets pharaoh meets idiot who thinks this facial hair looks good” offering.
5. He went to WrestleMania with Curtis Granderson and was basically a huge adorable dork about the whole thing. I can honestly say that I do not “get” the appeal of the wrestling thing… I get pro sports, obviously, but wrestling isn’t even real? I don’t know. Regardless. I view the obsession in most of my male friends (and, by extension, in Zoom and Grandy) as an amusement, something you smile and roll your eyes and pat them on the head about.
Gary Sheffield had the saddest fan club at the park ever. It was just two middle-aged lookin’ guys wearing chef hats and holding up a plain white sign with plain black hand-lettering reading “SHEFF’S CHEFS”. Just. Two. Guys. Wearin’ their chef hats, drinkin’ their beer. Laughably pathetic. Rod Allen predicted that the Chefs would catch on though, and declared “I might get me a hat.” Mario Impemba, always on the ball, immediately replied, “That would be sweet.”
Many sort-of former Tigers on the Jays: John McDonald, The Anonymous Jason Smith, and Matt Stairs. Apparently the Blue Jays are where mediocrely forgettable short-run former Tigers go to live out the rest of their journeyman lives.
And now the best part, something that I fully expect will be a regular feature this year. For now is the time when we take a look at
What Rod and Mario Said Today
Rod on the subject of his new TV: Finally saved up enough nickels.
They talk some more about the TV. Mario wants details, Rod does not want to give them. Rod jokes that it’s got all these features and he’s still trying to figure out how to get the VCR to stop blinking 12:00.
Mario: VCRs are so 1980s.
Another exchange on Rod’s new TV:
Mario: How big is it?
Rod: I ain’t gonna tell you.
Mario (laughing): How come?
Rod: ‘Cause you’re gonna think I got a lotta money.
Rod on the fact that they had John Keating running all over the stadium to interview fans in various locations: (more particularly, they at this point had Keating all the way up in what was almost the very top row of the ballpark) Keats’ gonna have to ice his hamstrings after the game. It’s a long run up there. Lookit him. He’s gonna need a massage after this one.
Rod, after Roy Halladay had just given up a hit to Granderson: He tried to sneak a piece of cheese by him.
(I am well aware that this is a perennial, traditional Rod-ism. But still.)
Rod: The opponents hit just buckets o’ change against Joel [Zumaya].
After Inge hit a ball into the Blue Jay dugout, and Lyle Overbay went over the rail to try and get it, almost tipping into his own dugout in the process and not getting the ball:
Mario: Paws would’ve made that play.
Rod (with absolutely no hesitation whatsoever): Every day.
On the subject of Fernando and Reed Johnson’s goatees:
Rod: They both got some length to ’em.
Just like last year’s home opener, a pretty good game in spite of the ending. It’s just nice to have baseball again.